Readings — From the December 2017 issue

Thought Police

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From a ruling handed down in September by a Louisiana district court in Officer John Doe v. DeRay Mckesson et al. The anonymous Baton Rouge police officer filed suit last year against Mckesson and Black Lives Matter, claiming damages for injuries sustained during a protest. The lawsuit was dismissed.

Plaintiff alleges that Mckesson and Black Lives Matter were in Baton Rouge for the purpose of demonstrating, protesting, and rioting to incite others to violence against police. Plaintiff avers that the protest turned into a riot when activists began “pumping up the crowd.” Demonstrators allegedly began to loot a Circle K, taking water bottles and “hurling” them at the officers. Once the demonstrators had exhausted their supply of water bottles, Plaintiff asserts, an unidentified demonstrator picked up a piece of concrete and hurled it into the police. Plaintiff allegedly was struck.

In his Complaint, Plaintiff names “Black Lives Matter” as a Defendant. The Court judicially notices that Black Lives Matter is a social movement that was catalyzed on social media in response to the perceived mistreatment of African-American citizens by law enforcement officers. Black Lives Matter, as a social movement, cannot be sued, in a similar way that a person cannot plausibly sue the civil rights movement, the LGBT rights movement, or the Tea Party movement. Plaintiff, in his Proposed Amended Complaint, seeks to add as a Defendant “#BlackLivesMatter.” The Court judicially notices that the combination of a pound or number sign and a word or phrase is referred to as a hashtag. For reasons that should be obvious, a hashtag  — an expression that categorizes or classifies a person’s thought  — lacks the capacity to be sued.

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